Cookies to Calm and Anxious Heart

Well if you've been watching the news you know that there has been a little "unrest" in our soon to be new home of Tunisia....Andy and I have been anxiously waiting, obsessively watching the BBC, reading the International Herald Tribune, and reassuring ourselves that we didn't make a grave mistake. Those really dark hours when the house is asleep are hard. My inner middle school girl has a really loud voice in the middle of the night, sometimes it is hard to get her to shut up. She can be a trouble maker that one, stirring the pot and causing lots of doubts and fears to creep into my thought life. Thankfully I have also had a bad cold this past week and I have found that a really good cough syrup or Tylenol PM pretty much makes her mute. It's been hard enough to go through the emotions myself but to walk through this past week with my daughters was an entirely different experience all together. How do you explain to your children that the new home you have chosen for them is in the process of overthrowing their government. The girls however were wonderful, understanding, occasionally anxious, but overall they handled things well. Thankfully we have 7 months until we officially move and a lot can happen in that time. I am certain that good things will happen for Tunisia in that time.

I don't know if you are like me but when I am a little tense, I need to bake. There have been quite a few things flying out of my oven of late, so much so that my oldest daughter and husband called for a time out. Granola, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies, Double Chocoalte Oatmeal cookies, and finally last night the cookie that did them in. Butterscotch Blondies with Toffee and Sea Salt. Now I know what you might be thinking, Blondies? Aren't those really just lazy Chocolate Chip cookies? I say that because that is what I always think. That is until I tried these cookies. They are chewy, and gooey, a little crunchy, and just when you think they are going to be too sweet you get a little hit of toffee and sea salt. Mmmm. You know....I'm thinking Dorie Greenspan has her World Peace Cookies I could technically call these Squelching a Riot Blondies. I probably need to work on the name a little more.

Butterscotch Blondies with Toffee and Sea Salt
For the Blondies:
12 tablespoons butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Topping:1 1/2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup toffee pieces, such as Heath brand
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9X13 baking dish and line with parchment paper.
Make the Blondies:
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream together well until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and vanilla mixing on low speed until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
In another bowl whisk together the all purpose flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, then scrape the batter into the parchment lined pan.
Bake the blondies for 25 minutes, or until the center is no longer runny when tested with a wooden skewer. Moist crumbs should still cling to the skewer when testing for doneness. You really don't want to overbake these!
Remove the Blondies to a wire rack to cool.
Make the Topping:
In a small saucepan stir the butter and the milk over medium heat until the butter is melted. Be careful not to bring to a boil. Add the powdered and brown sugars and stir until melted. Increase the heat to medium high. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat.
Using a skewer poke holes all over the top of the Blondie. Pour the topping mixture over the Blondie and spread evenly. Top with the Toffee pieces and then sprinkle the sea salt over all.
Cool completely, cut into 24 bars.
Note: I frequently don't have Toffe bits here in Singapore. These are lovely without the Toffee, or you can chop up Almond Roca in its place. Or if you are enterprising you can make your own Toffee.

The end of a holiday

Well we are back on Paradise Island. We arrived in Singapore from Seattle in the wee hours of Thursday and start back to work Monday. Jet lag is just mean. I think my New Years resolution is to sleep through the night. Don't judge me.
Currently I am deep in the throes of homesickness and counting the days until we get to go home again. 149 days to be exact. Told you I was counting. I am not sure if you have been to Skagit County in Washington State, this is where we spent some of our Christmas holiday. If you haven't, you should go. No really. You should go. If you're an outdoorsy sort there is a lot to do. The area is beautiful, close to the Cascade Mountain Range and the fabulous San Juan Islands. If you are not an outdoorsy sort, there happens to be quite a collection of people who make beautiful food. Here are a few places you could bide your time waiting for your friends to return from their hike, or what have you.

Samish Bay Cheese They make an addictive cheese called Lady Smith with many variations. Make sure you try the Lady Smith with Chive and the Lady Smith Black Mombazo. The Black Mombazo is their signature Lady Smith cheese that has been aged and coated in Cocoa, and Chipotle pepper. It's pretty lusty.
The Bread Farm I still dream of the Fig and Anise Pannini, the Sour Cherry and Lemon bread, their baguettes, and a Mint Chocolate cookie that will make your head spin. People, it will make your head spin.
Farm to Market Bakery in Bow Washington, I couldn't locate a website but don't hold that against them. Please, please try their Lime Polenta cakes and their Cinnamon Rolls. They might change your life.
Skagit River Brewery I can't say enough about their Steelie Brown Ale and the Bar-B-Que Brisket. Oh and the oysters, and Clam Chowder. Oh and the S'mores. I'll stop now.

There are so many more places to tell you about but you'll just have to be patient until we get back there next summer.
Well, I will share this recipe with you. It is adapted from the Colophon Cafe in Bellingham, Washington. It is one of my favorite Caesar Salads, the dressing is very garlicky, and bright with lemon.

Caesar Salad with Pan Seared Salmon
adapted from the Colophon Cafe. Serves 4 as a light entree
The Dressing:
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
4 cloves of garlic minced, you might not want to kiss anyone soon after eating this
the juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all these ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside.
The Salmon:
4, 6oz. center cut Salmon fillets
4 cloves of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
Pour a little olive oil over the salmon fillets, evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper and garlic. Pour 2 T olive oil into a saute pan and heat over medium. Place salmon fillets in hot pan and cook until you see that the salmon has cooked halfway through. You'll notice a change in the color of the fish up the side of the fillet. The length of time depends on the thickness of your fillet. Flip the fish over and finish cooking according to your preferred level of doneness. Remove from pan and set aside to cool slightly.
The Salad:
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups of salad croutons
In a large mixing bowl place the lettuce, cheese, and croutons. Toss to taste with the dressing. Divide the salad between 4 plates and top with a salmon filet.